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Kitkatla Cooks

Northwest Community College (NWCC) does not believe that geography should limit a student’s access to education. That is why the College strives to provide innovative classroom instruction that breaks institutional and geographical barriers, and delivers opportunities to those with a passion to learn.

NWCC recently delivered the Professional Cook 1 (PC1) program to the remote community of Kitkatla, a small village on Dolphin Island about 60km south west of Prince Rupert that has a population of less than 500 and is only accessible by floatplane or a two-hour ferry ride. It is so remote that accessing groceries was sometimes challenging for instructor Chef Darlene Godfrey. Anything the people of Kitkatla need arrives by plane, boat or barge, including food shipments, which can often be interrupted due to poor weather conditions.

“Menus would have to be changed at the last minute to accommodate a lack of items required for recipes,” said Chef Darlene. “There are no stores to go to if I was short on ingredients, so I had to be very thorough when placing grocery orders.”

Chef Darlene has worked in many different communities to run the Professional Cook and Cook’s Helper programs, but noted none were as remote as Kitkatla.

Opportunities like this are rare in Kitkatla. NWCC is the first college to offer this type of correspondence education to its residents. The program, delivered in partnership with Gitxaala Nation and Tricorp, accepted 12 adult students in August 2016, 11 of whom completed the program successfully.

“We attribute the excellent success rate to the great work of Chef Darlene,” said Kevin Jeffrey, Lead Hand of Trades at NWCC. “Francesca de Bastiani and Kirsten Baker from the Continues Learning Centre in Kitkatla assisted in the Essential Skills prior to the start of the program were also instrumental to the success of the students.”

Rena Nelson and Mitchell Tolmie are two of these students who received PC1 training with Chef Darlene. Recently they spent three weeks in Terrace, along with their classmates, for their final exams and to gain real-world experience in the kitchen and serving at NWCC’s Fine Dining fundraising event.

Rena had previous experience in kitchens, but Mitchell had only prepared food with his family. This was the first time he felt like a professional.

“I was nervous at first,” said Mitchell. “I was worried about the transition [to Terrace], and serving the Fine Dining event; but after my first order, my nerves calmed down.”

During the event Rena worked in the bakery preparing desserts where she had the opportunity to observe.

“The guests said they enjoyed themselves,” said Rena. “It was really something to see.”

This was a special experience for these students, as Terrace is a big city to those who live in Kitkatla. Participating in the Fine Dining event was a new opportunity – one these students likely wouldn’t benefit from in their home community.

“I am very happy that the College was able to accommodate these students to work the fine dining event,” said Chef Darlene. “All the students expressed their satisfaction in the opportunity. It was an excellent experience for them.”

Neither Rena nor Mitchell grew up wanting to be a chef, but after their experiences at NWCC, both plan to continue on to their Professional Cook Levels 2 and 3.

 

For more information on the Professional Cook Apprenticeship program please visit:
nwcc.bc.ca/program/professional-cook-apprenticeship-1-2-3

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